Monday, December 18, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Time for Pier foes to tip their hand

It's time for the opponents of the new St. Petersburg Pier to show their cards. The City Council is scheduled to vote Thursday on whether to spend $1.5 million more to continue designing the project, and the opponents seeking a voter referendum can make the council's decision easier. They can demonstrate their good faith by submitting their petition signatures to the city before the council's meeting so the city can verify them.

Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg leader Bud Risser told the Tampa Bay Times on Friday that the group has double-checked 16,000 of the 21,000 or so petitions he says it has collected seeking a referendum to cancel the city's contract with Michael Maltzan Architecture, designers of the proposed new Pier. The organization needs 15,652 verified petitions — or 10 percent of the city's electorate — to force the referendum that likely would be on the Aug. 27 city primary ballot.

But Risser won't commit on when the petitions will be submitted to City Hall — a far cry from just a few weeks ago when the group threatened to force a special election before the August primary if the City Council didn't do what it wanted. The window for a special election before the August primary has now passed. The gamesmanship is the latest frustration from a group that in the past few months has spent tens of thousands of dollars from a handful of donors determined to undermine the city's thoughtful, five-year process in deciding to close the deteriorating inverted pyramid and replace it.

The opposition group's organizers refuse to acknowledge that the new Pier design hews to the findings of a pier citizen task force recommendation. They reject opinions of all engineering experts but their own. And they have repeatedly spread misinformation about the project — from how much money has been spent to date to how Maltzan's design has changed since first winning the city's design competition.

This month the opponents further muddied the waters by joining with those who want to stall next month's closure of the Pier's inverted pyramid in anticipation of demolition later this year. The two issues are not linked. The pyramid, like the Million Dollar Pier before it, has passed its lifespan, and it would be financially irresponsible to save it. Already, the two biggest tenants, the Columbia and Cha Cha Coconuts restaurants, have said they would not remain even if closure is delayed.

There are reasonable questions about the new Pier's still-evolving design. For example, the city staff needs to confirm that the plan can pass county permitting requirements after some confusion on that point. And Maltzan's team needs to confirm expectations about how the project's canopy structure will interact with the elements.

It would be more constructive for the city to be focused on refining and finishing its plan than defending a well-considered decision. But if the Pier opponents are determined to force a voter referendum, it's time for them to stop playing games, deliver the signatures to the city and act in good faith. If they deliver the signatures before Thursday, the City Council could even delay its decision for a few days on spending more money on the Pier design until the signatures are verified and it is certain whether there will be a voter referendum.

Comments
Looking back at 2017 through the eyes of editorial cartoonists

Looking back at 2017 through the eyes of editorial cartoonists

The annual Editorial Cartoon Round-Up is a thought-provoking recap of a momentous 2017. The gallery containing 32 cartoons from some of the best editorial cartoonists in the country is made available by the Washington Post News Service & Syndicat...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17